All of Saint Peter’s Associates, by Jihoon Park

Short fiction

Saint Peter sat at his desk, doing figures. Stacks of papers were strewn across his desk as he typed away on a small desktop computer. The only other object on his desk was a small, incandescent and insufficient lamp. At first he was against the idea of going digital. He had used ink on honest-to-god paper for the past two-thousand or so years and he did not see the point in implementing a new system. However, after reluctantly allowing the IT team to install a computer and learning to use the contraption, Saint Peter realized how practical and organized computers could be in his line of work. Earth was vastly overpopulated and yet people kept fucking all the time, making babies and choking up the planet. With more and more people dying each year, the Divine Bureau of Labor was busier than ever.
There was a knock on his office door and a woman walked in.
“Mr. Shimon? I have your coffee sir,” she said.
“Thanks Joan, you can leave it on my desk. Let me clear up some space,” Peter said. He looked at Joan’s halo, which was golden and free of dents and blemishes, even after more than five hundred years. Peter’s halo was a dirty copper color and had a large crack on the backside. The rest of his attire matched his halo. Of course, his ancient cobalt robes had long ago frayed away, but even his business suit, which he was currently wearing, had begun coming apart at the seams. His thick spectacles were bent awkwardly out of shape. Through centuries of staring at papers under candle lights, and more recently, dim lightbulbs and computer screens, he had become quite myopic.
“Would you prefer an espresso sir? You look a bit drained today,” asked Joan.
“No, I’m quite fine Joan, thanks,” said Peter.
“Okay. And just a reminder, you have a meeting with Angels from the Department of Judgement around one,” said Joan. She left and shut the door behind her. Saint Peter had a strict closed-door policy. Although he had grown to despise his work and employees, he still took his job very seriously and didn’t like to be disturbed. When the Saint needed to be notified of anything, it went through Joan first. Nobody but Joan was allowed in his office without prior arrangements.

On average it took a human around one hundred and fifty years to get bored out of his skull in Heaven. As it turned out, God had created human beings to be terrible at staying satisfied and joyful. They constantly wanted happiness but had a knack for making themselves miserable, even in a perfect afterlife. No matter how many movie theaters, strip clubs, and luxury resorts the Angels made for them, human beings always ended up miserable from the painstaking boredom of Heaven.
And they couldn’t even kill themselves. No matter how many times they shot their own brains out, they just got right back up with a nice new brain, bullet wounds instantly healed and all.
So Yeshua created the Divine Bureau of Labor. The Bureau was to provide the citizens of Heaven with harsh, unforgiving, and pointless labor so that they would finally be able to enjoy Heaven’s delights in contrast to it. Jobs included splitting large boulders of diamond and putting it back together again, constructing steel mills and working there and then tearing down the buildings (Saint Peter came up with this one himself), sending missent mail back down to the fiery pits of hell, and so on. Afterwards, people were finally happy to go out drinking, sightseeing, and cloud riding again.
When Saint Peter was first appointed as head of the Divine Bureau of Labor, he watched over five thousand or so employees. Death rates were steady and manageable. Now the bureau employed over one hundred million workers and every one of them was constantly swamped with work, assigning meaningless jobs to new citizens. People were dying at a faster rate than ever.

It was almost one o’clock. Saint Peter turned off his lamp and powered down his computer. As he was leaving for the elevator he took a peek into Joan’s office, which was empty. Peter assumed she went on her lunch break. Saint Peter thought about her in the elevator going down. He and Joan never talked more than the necessary amount for work, but he enjoyed sharing the top floor with just her. He noticed that, much like himself, Joan had grown indifferent and weary towards her work over the years. Joan never patronized Peter and treated him as nothing more than another part of her job. Peter liked not having to preserve his image as the head of the Bureau around her, and although he was not one to enjoy others’ sufferings, he was comforted by the fact that he was not alone in feelings of apathy.
What irritated Saint Peter the most, and it was this that was mostly responsible for his dissatisfaction with his job, was hearing conceptions others had about him, how he was the Saint Peter, the Saint Peter that sat in for the last supper, the Saint Peter that Yeshua himself entrusted with the keys to Heaven and led the first churches. In reality, he was always sitting in his dark office on the top floor of a corporate building, doing figures day and night. He had long since grown tired of venturing out and seeing the delights of heaven, and even stopped going to the yearly meeting with Yeshua and the other apostles, a meeting which he usually returned from in distress.

The elevator stopped on the 1,223rd floor and a young employee walked in. His face lit up as realized who he was sharing the elevator with.
“Hey Boss man!” the employee said. “Never thought I’d get to meet you in person, you know it’s funny… I’m from the accounting department for this wing, we started a little money pool to see who’d run into you first…you look a bit older than I thought you’d be…let me find my camera…”
Saint Peter was not listening. He dreaded small talk. Only a few hundred more floors until I can politely leave, he thought to himself. He forced a smile for the picture and went back to blocking out the employee’s talking with his thoughts. He began fantasizing about the apocalypse, when humanity’s time on earth will come to an end, and the Divine Bureau of Labor will become unnecessary after having assigned work to the last batch of Heaven’s citizens. Perhaps then Saint peter could, after having finished the last of his figures, finally enjoy a quiet moment to himself.

Saint Peter exited the elevator on the 748th floor and made his way towards the meeting room. He wondered what sorts of nonsense he would have to listen to in the next hour. New labors to accommodate for the sudden influx in population? Changes in district labor laws? None of these thoughts aroused even the smallest bit of genuine care in his mind. He was surprised when he entered the room as the lights were off and the room was empty aside from the oval table and the chairs surrounding it. Peter flicked the lights on.
A mass of people suddenly leaped up from behind the table and chairs. They were wearing small party hats and Saint Matthew shot a depressing amount of confetti from a small plastic gun. Yeshua approached and embraced him with a genuine smile. From the corner of his eye, Peter noticed that even Joan was standing in the corner, smiling slightly while clapping.
“Happy 2,000th birthday!”
“Congratulations Peter, you’ve made it so far!”
“Man, the last time I saw you you were still on the 108th floor. You’ve certainly come a long way huh?”
“Alright everyone, don’t be so overbearing,” said Yeshua. “Okay, Let’s get the cake. Obviously we didn’t think it was necessary to get a cake large enough to hold two thousand candles on a Tuesday afternoon, but we have candles nonetheless! Each one represents a century. Twenty centuries! Isn’t that something?” Yeshua led Peter to the middle of the crowd. Everyone gathered around he as he blew out all twenty candles. There was cheering and back slapping, and Saint Peter managed to muster up half of a smile. Saint Anthony brought out a digital camera.
“Alright, picture time!” he said. “We had a replica of your old robes and keys made just for this. Everyone gather around.” Yeshua draped the robe over Peter’s business suit and pushed the keys into his hands.
“Alright it’s a small room…tight squeeze everyone!”
“Mark, you’re not really in the frame, maybe go between Peter and Francis?”
“Hey Joseph you’re blocking my face I think…that’s better, thanks.”
“What if you put your arm over Peter? That looks great.”
“Okay big smiles everyone!”
All of Saint Peter’s associates cheered and clapped.

Out of politeness Saint Peter took a slice of cake. It felt dry and rough in his mouth and he only managed to take a few bites before it lumped up in his throat. He became nauseous amongst the distinct, separate conversations in the room. Suddenly, Peter overheard Yeshua’s voice.
“You know Joan, I think it’s great that you’ve been working with Peter for so long,” Yeshua said. He was leaning against the wall, hands in his pants pockets, talking to Joan, who was smiling and drinking wine from a paper cup. “You’re passionate Joan, and if you bring that to your work, you can really make some big differences around here. Passion will take care of you forever, you know? Maybe you can bring back some passion in Peter too…”

Amidst all the merrymaking, Saint Peter managed to sneak out of the room. He took a deep breath to settle his nausea. Looking in through the mirror he saw that everyone was still having a good time, eating cake and drinking wine. He considered asking Joan to leave with him, but he realized she would think it was of business matters and be confused when he had no task to assign her. Besides, he would have had to interrupt her conversation with Yeshua, and at that moment even the prospect of talking to Yeshua disgusted him. Saint Peter went to the elevator and made the thirty-five minute journey back up to his office.
When the elevator doors opened Saint Peter looked at his office door at the end of the dark hallway. He suddenly felt weighed down by his robes and could barely muster up the strength to stay standing, let alone lift his legs and start walking. He continued to stare out from the elevator for a few more moments before the elevator doors shut. The elevator gently hummed for a few seconds. Saint Peter pressed the button for the rooftop.

The rooftop was barren and desolate. Nobody had bothered to paint the ledges this far up. He stood by the ledge and watched the laborers off in the distance ending their shifts and heading off to the bars. He took off his robe, wrapped the keys to Heaven in it, and let it fall down the side of the building. Peter started counting to see how long it would take to hit the ground when he heard the elevator ding and open up behind him.
“You looked a little grim today Peter,” a voice spoke from behind. It was Yeshua. Saint Peter quickly grabbed ahold of the ledge, fearing that he may suddenly become impulsive. “Joan saw you leave early from your own party. How’re you holding up buddy?”
Peter turned around and met Yeshua’s eyes.
“I’m fine,” said Peter. “Doing just fine.”

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